UHD ALPFA Chapter Honored With Award at 2023 Convention
Student Organization Recognized for Quality, Hard Work, & Passion
By Laura Wagner
On August 20, 40 members of UHD’s ALPFA Student Chapter and three faculty sponsors hit the road. Their destination? The 2023 ALPFA Convention in San Antonio, “Real Power. True Culture.”
For five days, the group attended seminars and workshops, networked with representatives from top firms across the country, and interviewed for jobs and internships. On the last night, the crew gathered in the massive ballroom of the convention center to watch as UHD’s ALPFA Chapter Vice President Kimberly Castillo (’22) walked up to the stage, and, amid thunderous applause, accepted the prestigious Regional Chapter of the Year Award for the Central region on behalf of the chapter.
“It was an incredible privilege to stand before an audience of more than 5,000 ALPFA members and shine a light on the remarkable milestones that ALPFA UHD has accomplished in the past two years,” Castillo said in a LinkedIn post.
Now a graduate student in the Marilyn Davies College of Business (MDCOB) MBA program, Castillo has attended the conference three times. “It’s always a significant event for us,” she said. “It’s a time when many of our students get their first taste of interacting with businesses in a professional environment. They have opportunities to interview for internships and jobs with firms that may not recruit on our campus.”
But this year, she explained, was particularly special. “This award was an acknowledgment that the hard work of all our members, our officers, our President Gabriela Perez (’21) and me, and our faculty sponsors is finally paying off.”
According to the ALPFA website, the Regional Chapter of the Year Award is given to chapters that have “shown their commitment to ALPFA’s mission and vision by providing student members with career enhancement and leadership development opportunities. Through local programming, they have excelled in their programs, member growth, and the ALPFA brand and mission representation.”
Earning the award meant the group competed and won against all student chapters in the Central region, including University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of New Mexico, University of St. Thomas, Texas A&M, and all the non-health-sciences UT campuses (Arlington, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio), among other universities. “The competition is huge,” Castillo marveled. “It really takes my breath away that we won against all these universities—some of them are so much bigger than we are!”
Dr. Daniel Perez (right), Assistant Professor of Finance, accompanied the students to the conference as a faculty advisor, along with Dr. Zahir Latheef (below) and Dr. Richard Condé. “I was gratified to see the group win this award. Kimberly and Gabby and the whole chapter have worked so hard, with Dr. Latheef’s guidance, and it took a significant amount of effort to develop the chapter into the strong and serious organization it is today,” he said.
Latheef, an Associate Professor of Management at MDCOB, has been the faculty advisor since the the chapter launched in 2015.
Perez also noted the incredible opportunity the conference provides to students. “The CEO of Deloitte was one of the keynote speakers,” he said. “That’s the level of professional our students interact with at this event. It’s a credit to MDCOB leadership that they provide funding for so many students to have this opportunity.”
UHD’s ALPFA chapter was established in 2015 by alum Zackery Miller-Perez, CPA (’18), who now sits on ALPFA’s Board of Directors for the Houston Chapter of ALPFA, and alum Osman Castro, CPA (’18). “When Osman and I started UHD’s ALPFA Chapter, I knew the value of opportunity it would bring to UHD’s students.” (Shown left to right: Gabriela Perez, Miller-Perez, Castillo; photo courtesy of Miller-Perez)
After Miller-Perez graduated, Castillo and Gabriela Perez, also a current MBA student at MDCOB, continued as members, but the organization withered during COVID. “It was just Gabby and me and four student leaders, plus Dr. Latheef as our faculty advisor,” Castillo recalled. “We decided it was time to reach out and get more students involved so we could turn the organization around.”
Their grass-roots efforts included social media outreach to invite students to functions; fundraisers and recruiting pushes on campus; and word-of-mouth invitations to events like the recent UHD and Houston ALPFA joint effort, the C-Suite Hispanic Leadership Panel.
The results are in the numbers: As of Aug. 1, the UHD ALPFA Student Chapter boasted 89 members, including Finance major Iker Pelcastre, who commented on LinkedIn: “[At the conference], I was able to learn from industry professionals and from our ALFPA CEO, Damian Rivera. I am filled with motivation and inspiration to pursue entrepreneurial dreams I had discarded long ago. Maybe even open the first European ALPFA Chapter in Spain.”
Castillo noted that MDCOB sponsored 26 of the 40 student members who attended (Pelcastre was one), including two Computer Science majors from the College of Sciences and Technology. “ALPFA is also about business-adjacent careers, not just accounting, finance, management, and marketing," Castillo explained. “The businesses who come to the conference need Computer Science graduates, so they’re thrilled to be able to recruit them there as well as traditional business majors. And these two members are very active in the chapter.”
“We’re so grateful for the support from Dr. Latheef and MDCOB,” said Gabriela Perez. “We could not have achieved this without their help.” She added, “This organization has been like a second job for Kimberly and me in terms of how much time and effort we’ve put in. When you put your heart and soul into something, it’s empowering to have the backing from leadership to make it a success.”
In her acceptance speech, Castillo thanked previous and current officers, Dr. Latheef and MDCOB, and all the members who've worked to make the group a success. Dr. Perez noted the impact of seeing her on stage, “To watch one of our students get up in front of this huge audience and give such a moving acceptance speech—Kimberly was an inspiration for all the students who attended.”
Miller-Perez agreed, noting, “I’m pleased to see Gabby and Kimberly surpass my dreams for the chapter and take it to the next level by being nationally recognized with an award. I am so proud of what this group has accomplished and excited to see what the future holds for these young leaders.”
For her part, Castillo said, “So many people helped me with things I didn't know at first—how to talk to companies, how to dress, how to put a résumé together—and of course I wanted to give that back. We're called ALPFAmilia for a reason—it’s a safe place where all of us help each other grow and develop.”
She spoke of a student who came to her at the end of the first day of the conference, thrilled to have scheduled three interviews with large firms. “Just seeing the excitement on our students’ faces at the end of each day … that was so rewarding. And I thought, this is why Gabby and I worked so hard these past two years. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed.”
For more information about joining UHD’s ALPFA chapter, contact Castillo.
Conference photos courtesy of Kimberly Castillo.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.